Use PR to create a lasting impact

Since the early days of PR the challenge has been to find a way to blend the good of the company with the good of the community. Even as PR has evolved to become more focused on marketing and promotion,  there seems to be another growing trend, especially among the new generation of entrepreneurs, to build companies that want to do good while also doing well. And a well-planned PR campaign is one of the most effective ways to make this happen.

A lot of times, however, the well-meaning campaign ends up generating a large amount of publicity about a special event, a product launch, or a company’s product or services, but too many times, the campaign eventually fades away and becomes a distant memory.

Dina Dwyer-Owens on CNBC

Dina Dwyer-Owens promotes Dwyer Group’s Women In Trades program on CNBC.

So how do you avoid this downfall? How do you create a sustainable campaign with lasting impact?

Our client Dwyer Group knows how. The global franchisor of service-based companies that is headquartered in Waco, Texas, has a history of embracing PR programs that not only build brand awareness but also have long-term impact in championing great causes.

Their campaigns do much more than create high profile publicity opportunities for the company. They are doing exactly what an effective PR campaign should do — they are changing lives.  The visionary leaders behind these programs saw a need in their community and decided to take the lead in helping fill that need.

In 1991, for example, the late founder of Dwyer Group, Don Dwyer Sr., wanted a way to give back to veterans returning from the first Gulf War.  The result was VetFran, a program designed to offer U.S. military veterans a financial discount toward owning a franchise and help them transition to a career in the civilian world after serving their country.

The big idea was that veterans could use the discount for one of the Dwyer Group franchises or a non-Dwyer Group franchise that agreed to join Don in the effort. Don didn’t care who benefited as long as the veterans got the help they needed making the transition. In the decades since, the VetFran program, which is now run by the International Franchise Association (IFA), has grown into a network of more than 650 franchise brands helping thousands of veterans get into business with financial incentives, mentorship, training opportunities and more.

As the drawdown of U.S. troops continues, VetFran remains an important career vehicle for military men and women in growing numbers almost 25 years later. From a simple PR idea to a long running program that makes a difference in lives all over the nation, VetFran is an example of a program that takes on a life of its own by involving participants, business organizations and communities across the nation and challenging them to help out. 

More recently, another campaign at Dwyer Group has taken the national spotlight for an equally important cause. After gaining a large following from her 2012 appearance on “Undercover Boss,” where she worked alongside female service professional Tanna Marino, Dina Dwyer-Owens saw a need to do more to create awareness that the trades weren’t just for men, but should be considered a career opportunity for women as well. At the Dwyer Group the demand for plumbers, electricians and others jobs traditionally dominated by skilled males trades professionals was at an all-time high. These jobs, as she had witnessed first-hand by going undercover, could not only be handled by properly trained women, but they also provided a good income. And since many of the customers using Dwyer Group services were women it only made sense that they would be more comfortable with a strange woman in their house than a man.

Dina decided to create the “Women in the Trades” scholarship program. And she used her appearance on the “Undercover Boss” episode to launch the program on national TV!

The scholarship program has not only increased Dwyer Group’s leadership position within its various industries, but it has created a steady stream of talented new employees for Dwyer Group franchisees. More importantly, it has taken on a life of its own by impacting the way women view service industry jobs. Dina and scholarship recipients have been profiled on local TV stations, in industry trade magazines, and on national TV. And this August, more than three-and-half years later, Dina made an appearance on CNBC’s “On the Money” to talk about the success of Women in the Trades scholarships and the importance of attracting more women to the trades, trade school education and the earning potential of a career in the service trades.

So when planning your next PR campaign, take a step back and think beyond an idea that will just generate publicity or promotion for your company. Take a look around your community. Are there problems that your company can help solve? Maybe this is the chance for you to create a campaign that will leave a long-term impact on the community, your legacy and that of your company.